Bird Lady Blog

June 15, 2010

Red-Winged Blackbird and Yellow-Headed Blackbird

Filed under: Blackbirds,Munds Park Birding — Munds Park Birding @ 4:28 am

This article is about two aptly-named birds found around our ponds in Munds Park and at Lake Odell.  Both of these birds are “sexually dimorphic”, meaning that the males and females look very different from each other.  Their names definitely come from the males.  The male Red-Winged Blackbird is striking – in flight it is all black with bright red shoulder patches.  The male Yellow-Headed Blackbird is very easily identified by its bright yellow head on its black body. 

 Both of these species can be found around the Pinewood Country Club golf course at the pond to the left of Hole #1 or left of Hole #18 when you are headed in after a round.  They are also found in other areas of Munds Park that have cattails or marshy patches of water and vegetation.  The Red-Winged Blackbird seems to me to be much more prevalent here, and as of this writing I have seen and heard them, but have not yet sighted the Yellow-Headed Blackbird this season.  

The Red-Winged Blackbird is a very common bird all across the United States, including up through Alaska, and its distinctive call summons thoughts for me of summer family vacations.  If you grew up somewhere in the U.S. and went fishing in a lake or pond, you most likely heard and saw the Red-Winged Blackbird.  When you listen to it now, perhaps it brings back some nostalgic memories of those earlier days.  

Female and juvenile Red-Winged Blackbirds resemble large striped sparrows but with sharper beaks.  Females make a cup-shaped nest attached to vegetation or in a marsh shrub and lay three-to five eggs, and they do all the incubating.  These birds’ diets consist of about three-fourths seeds and one-fourth insects such as flies, dragonflies, butterflies, and moths.  They also eat frogs, worms, and other wiggly creatures.  In the spring both species will eat more insects, and during winter will consume more seeds and grains.

The Yellow-Headed Blackbird could have been named the white-winged blackbird because it is has distinctive white wing patches in flight, but its bright yellow head is certainly its dominant identifier and the feature from which its name is derived.  This bird has a breeding range that goes from Wisconsin to the West Coast, and it is not found at all in the Eastern United States.  It favors cattail habitat and co-exists with the Red-Winged Blackbird.  The female’s body is dull and brown with some pale yellow and white on its head and throat. 

Yellow-headed Blackbirds prefer deeper waters, and when sharing habitat with the Red-Winged Blackbirds, the former will be found in the middle of the marsh while the latter will be around the periphery.  The Yellow-Headed Blackbird has an unusual, non-melodic call that is described as a hoarse strangling or gurgling call, at least to our human ears. 

Now that we are up to 10 articles, I’ve covered 26 different birds found in Munds Park, in this order:  American Robin, Lesser Goldfinch, Western Bluebird, Mountain Chickadee, Acorn Woodpecker, Stellar’s Jay, White Breasted Nuthatch, Pygmy Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Red-Faced Warbler, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Red-Tailed Hawk, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Band-Tailed Pigeon, Black-Headed Grosbeak, Rufous Hummingbird, Barn Swallow, Violet-Green Swallow, Tree Swallow, American Coot, Mallard, Canada Goose, Turkey Vulture, Common Raven, and American Crow.  I’d like to hear from you about which new ones to write about during the rest of the summer.  You can get all the articles or leave comments for me at

For those of you who would like to meet other birders in Munds Park, we are planning an informal get-together on Saturday, July 10th, 3:00 p.m., in one of the meeting rooms at Pinewood Country Club.  Nothing formal, just come as you are and get introduced to other bird watching folks in our neighborhood and share some of your favorite sightings if you wish.  Thanks in advance to Pinewood Country Club for accommodating our group.

Finally, the Arboretum at Flagstaff is having a Hummingbird Festival from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 26th.  I previewed the event schedule for the day and there is certainly plenty to see and learn about hummingbirds.  Read more at  The Arboretum is a wonderful nature resource for Munds Park and only a half-hour drive away.


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